With Christmas just a few weeks away, Santa Claus is getting a head start traveling to the farthest reaches of the globe. And thanks to a special sleigh – namely a C-17 from the Alaska National Guard -- Santa is visiting children and families in rural Alaska.
Far off the coast of Alaska in the Bering Sea, the people of Saint Paul Island got a special delivery.
Santa and Mrs. Claus made an early Christmas visit with help from the Alaska National Guard as part of Operation Santa Claus.
On board the plane were dozens of elves ready to bring Christmas to the remote community.
They brought hundreds of presents, all the fixings for a Christmas feast and sweet treats.
It’s a day everyone in St. Paul has waited for -- especially the kids.
“Ever since he heard about it, beginning of the week you know, is it time yet? Is it time?” Mac Mandregan Sr., a St. Paul Island resident, said.
The anxious children didn't have to wait long for Santa to arrive.
The Christmas spirit quickly spread throughout the room and everyone wanted to see the magic for themselves.
“They don't get to go to the mall and sit on Santa's lap, so we get to bring that -- Santa and Mrs. Claus to them and provide some really great Christmas memories,” said Shannon Dehas, the organizer of Operation Santa Claus.
Most of the children were excited.
One girl asked Santa for an iPad.
“An iPad?! I got a lot of calls for those, you know,” Santa said. “I got a long list for iPads. I want one, too. Well, I will put your name on my list.”
Some children weren’t so excited, but everyone told us they are grateful.
“It was pretty good, we got a chance to just come all together and celebrate. It's a great thing for our community,” said 13-year-old Taylor Kauffman.
“I'm just happy. The kids are happy running around, it’s just a great, great day. Even the weather cooperated,” said Jason Bourdukofsky, the president of the village corporation.
Volunteers from around Alaska, including the Salvation Army, help contribute to continue the tradition, which has been going on for 54 years.
The effort began before Alaska even became a state, when a flood devastated the economy of Saint Mary's near the Bering Sea, and the National Guard used a cargo plane to save Christmas for 200 kids.